Content Marketing For Associations

 

Article Contents:

 

Developing a plan to promote your event is a critical part of conference planning. Marketing can be expensive and time-consuming, and consumers are increasingly skeptical of traditional advertising. This is where content marketing comes into play.

Content marketing is the practice of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract and engage a target audience. This method goes hand-in-hand with your goal as an association: to educate industry professionals and association members.

Luckily, as an event planner, you have a secret weapon: you sit on a goldmine of valuable information. This allows you to:

  • Connect with professionals looking for industry-specific information
  • Remind members of the value your association provides year-round
  • Build awareness of your conference and other events
  • Extend the life of the materials you work hard to collect

These shiny knowledge-nuggets are not something you have to go mining for; they are already at your fingertips.

Why Content Marketing Works for Associations

Content marketing has become one of the most popular ways for organizations to promote themselves online. Associations have some unique advantages when it comes to content marketing:

  • You have existing material. The biggest barrier to content marketing is creating new material. Your existing library of content gives you a head start.
  • Your review process provides authority. You can be confident that your peer-reviewed materials are insightful. This can be especially handy if you are not a subject matter expert.
  • You have access to the latest thinking. Your conference is an industry leader in providing timely, relevant information, allowing you to continue your role as a thought leader throughout the year.
  • You get feedback from the industry. Your conference feedback can provide insight into which topics are most in-demand. Think of this as “focus group” input on the material in your collection.

Reusing your existing content allows you to give your content a second life and extend its use beyond your conference. Using actual event content gives potential attendees a glimpse of the kinds of material at your conference so they can see for themselves why yours is a “can’t miss” event.

Develop a Content Marketing Plan

The first step in launching a content marketing campaign is assessing your existing materials. Determine what kind of content you have available and where it will be located. Your association’s website may seem like a good idea at first, but as time goes on, content can get lost or buried as the site gets updated. It’s best to create a standalone digital conference library. This will give visitors an idea of the broad range of information they can rely on your conference for.

It’s also important to determine a schedule that you will be able to follow. Be realistic. Will you be able to consistently post two pieces of content each week? Or is one piece of content every two weeks more likely? The rate that you choose is less important than your ability to stay on schedule. Readers stay engaged with a blog or social media profile that is updated on a regular basis.

Now that you’ve identified the most relevant materials and decided on how much time you can devote to sharing content online, you’ll need to consider the best ways your association can reach its followers. How can you make your content clickable? One way to effectively grab your readers’ attention is by using images.

Create Images for Social Media

The web is becoming an increasingly visual medium. Adding visual elements to your posts is one of the most effective ways you can increase the impact of your messaging. In fact, posts that include images see 650% more engagement than posts with just text alone.

Here are three conference-specific scenarios where visuals would be an effective way to promote your event. For each scenario, there is an example of an online tool well-suited for creating attention-grabbing artwork with minimal effort.

Scenario #1 – Promote a session by a prominent speaker

The speakers at your conference are a major factor in drawing in attendees each year, so it should be no surprise that speakers make for effective promotional content.

Imagine you’ve just finished your speaker selection process and are ready to announce the keynote speaker. You could certainly type out a post listing their names and the topics they will be discussing (Borrrrrr-ingggg!). A much more engaging approach is to present the same information with a visual design to it.

The Tool #1: Pikiz

Pikiz is an image creator that is perfect for creating simple images that include text. Upload your own background image or choose from the images they have available. Then, double-click on the text box to add a customized message. Another great feature is that each social network has its own preset. This makes it super simple to post great-looking images to your favorite site.

 

Scenario #2 – Present research findings as an infographic

A presentation from last year’s conference coincides with some hot new research that is making the rounds. You know this is a great opportunity to join the conversation and promote your event. Since the presentation is available in your digital content library, it’s ready for people to see. But how do you make sure your post stands out from the crowd of others? Use the findings from the presentation and display it as an infographic!

The Tool #2: Infogr.am

Creating an infographic is a simple three-step process with infogr.am. Choose a design template, enter your data into their spreadsheet viewer and click share. That’s it! The program will create a shareable link to the social media site of your choice. You can also upload your own images or choose different fonts if you want a more customized design.

 

Scenario #3 – Call for award nominations using your own branded graphic

Part of your annual pre-event strategy is to ask for award nominations. You could do what you’ve always done: copy and paste the same text on the same social media networks and get the same results. Or, you can take it to the next level by creating a completely custom design (no designer needed)!

Tool #3: Canva

Canva is like working with a design pro that has dozens of designs ready for you to choose from (but doesn’t charge by the hour). Once you log in to Canva, you’ll see dozens of customizable templates sorted by format. Whether you are looking to create an image for social media, your blog or a poster, Canva has a file ready for you to start designing with. It’s also flexible enough to work with your existing elements. Just add your association logo, a picture of the award and text asking for nominations. You then have the option to share online or download.

 

Catch Their Eye

A well-designed image is critical in catching the attention of busy professionals, so having a visual presence online these days is essential. Presenting your existing content visually is a great way to keep your event in front of the attendees you want to attract.

Thankfully, the web is full of fast and intuitive ways to create custom graphics. With little effort, you can create designs that convey your message in an interesting and engaging way, and most importantly, in a way your audience enjoys seeing.

The next step is sharing those images and other content on platforms that will help you build and connect with your audience.

Promote Your Event on Social Media

Social media platforms are great hosts for content marketing pieces, particularly visuals. The best part about social media is that it’s not only for sharing content—it’s also great for building communities of like-minded people, just like your association! Each platform has its own strengths, so it’s important to assess these and plan content accordingly when designing a content marketing strategy. Below are a few of the most popular social media platforms to get you started.

Instagram

Another platform that’s useful for engaging members is Instagram, a photo and video-sharing social media app. Instagram is great for sharing eye-catching graphics and photos to promote your event and attract potential attendees. Users can accompany their photos with captions and hashtags, which help the posts be seen by non-followers.

Instagram is popular with your youngest members, making it the ideal platform for appealing to Millennials and Generation Z. By sharing posts on Instagram, you have a much higher chance of attracting and engaging a younger demographic to your conferences than on other platforms like Facebook. The most important aspect to Instagram is to make sure your posts are visually appealing and include appropriate hashtags to make sure they are seen.

Twitter

Twitter can be a fantastic tool for event professionals. Its design works well for promoting a conference or creating year-round awareness of your association. Being active on Twitter lets you connect with industry thought-leaders and attendees on a platform that they prefer.

Using original and industry hashtags, retweeting interesting industry sources and sharing quotes and links to your association’s content can transform your Twitter feed into a hub of relevant, valuable industry information. This way, you can keep current members engaged while attracting future members from other parts of the industry.

Twitter is also a great place for personal engagement with industry experts, your conference speakers and your members. Mention speakers in tweets; follow and retweet thought leaders; and like, retweet and reply to your follower’s tweets to create a sense of community while spreading the word about your event.

 

Snapchat

To reach younger members, try using Snapchat to promote your next conference. Snapchat is a particularly useful social media platform during your event, but can also be used before the conference to build anticipation. Snapchats stories, which last for 24 hours, allow you to share behind-the-scenes photos and videos of event set-up. Your speakers can also “take over” your stories to share some insider information about their presentations or industry topics.

A branded Geofilter can be designed specifically for your event and applied the day of the conference, so your attendees can use it when sending snapchats to their friends or story throughout the day. Not only will the Geofilter feel exclusive due to its limited availability, helping engage your attendees, but it can help spread the word about your association.

 

Facebook

Facebook is one of the most-used social media platforms across all age groups, which makes it the perfect place to provide event information and promote the sharing of your conference. Create a Facebook Page for your association where you can post conference information and other content.

You can also create a Facebook Event for your conference and invite current members, encouraging them to invite people who may be interested, as well. This is a free and easy way to spread the word and potentially reach new members through current advocates of your association.

 

Discover Your Audience’s Interests

Now you know that using conference content as a marketing tool is a great way for your audience to learn about your event and the value it provides.

But did you know that it can also be a great way for you to learn about your audience?

By analyzing the data from your content marketing posts, you can learn a number of important things about your audience. First, you can see what parts of the world your visitors come from; this can help you find speakers from those particular regions to boost attendance at your annual event. You can also identify which sites or platforms best connect you with your members, helping you tune your messages on the most critical platforms moving forward.

Most importantly, you’ll be able to identify which types of content your visitors prefer. This feedback can guide future conference planning as well as future content marketing efforts to best connect you with your audience.

Content marketing can also inform you about your own content. By recognizing what messaging is most effective with your audience, you will be better prepared for conference promotion techniques. Additionally, analytics can teach you which topics generate the most interest among your followers; consider including these topics in your next conference event.

Use the information you gain from your content marketing plan to inform future events, connect with key members and create a more successful content marketing strategy overall.

Make Your Content Work Year-Round

The whole point of content marketing is to show your followers you have value to offer with tangible pieces of content you’ve worked hard to collect. Choose the platforms that best connect with your audience and help your association achieve goals, whether that includes your website, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat or one of the many others available online. Most of the content you share can be used across multiple platforms, giving you lots of opportunities to reach new people and prove the value of your event all year long.

If you’re interested in how to take your association’s content marketing strategy to the next level, download our free whitepaper, “Promote Your Event With Conference Content Marketing.”

Promote Your Training Courses With Content Marketing

 

We’ve heard from organizations that increasing enrollment in their continuing education courses can be challenging, time-consuming and expensive. Organizations sit on a goldmine of useful educational materials and resources, but might not know how to use them to their benefit.

Since getting new members to enroll in your courses is so important to your organization, you need a way to expand your reach and keep learners interested in your training courses year-round.

That’s why we’ve created a guide to help you use the educational materials you already have and share them on social media.

Our new whitepaper, “Promote Your Training Courses With Content Marketing,” offers in-depth strategies for:

  • How to transform existing educational content into shareable information
  • Which visual tools you can use to create eye-catching promotional graphics
  • How Twitter can help you build a community of learners
  • How to promote your courses as events on Facebook
  • How LinkedIn can help you expand your reach to users outside of your existing network

Using free social media tools to share your content is a great way to start using your educational materials to their full potential. If you’d like to learn how social media can help your organization engage new and existing learners, download our free whitepaper!

Promote Your Event With Conference Content Marketing

 

Whether it’s before, during or after your event, social media is a great tool to use to promote your conference and engage attendees. And one of the most effective ways to grab your followers’ attention is with your existing conference materials. These research findings, conference schedules, presentations, speaker announcements, etc. provide the perfect preview of what your event offers.

But when it comes to sharing your content, not all social media sites are created equal.

Twitter, Snapchat and LinkedIn each excel at promoting your event in different ways. So, before you implement your conference content marketing plan, it’s important to know which sites are best suited for each type of content.

Take a look at the infographic below to see which social media networks are the best match for each type of conference-specific content. And be sure to read the whitepaper Promote Your Event With Conference Content Marketing for actionable ideas on how you can use social media to attract attendees to your next event!

 

Infographic-Promote Your Event with Conference Content Marketing

Promote Your Event With Conference Content Marketing Infographic

Not all social media networks are alike! Twitter, Snapchat and LinkedIn each excel at promoting your event in different ways.

  • Twitter: Real-time updates and interaction. A network designed for immediate feedback, Twitter is the perfect choice for conversations around events and news.
  • Snapchat: Reach younger members. Connect with the next generation of professionals on the platform they prefer.
  • LinkedIn Advertising: Expand your network to others in your industry. Targeted advertising allows your messages to reach industry professionals that have not yet followed your page.

Choose the right type of conference content for each social media network

  • Twitter: Speaker Announcements, Interesting Quotes, Polls
  • Snapchat: Event prep photos, Geofiltered Images, Videos of the event
  • LinkedIn Ads: Research from past events, News articles, Infographics from conference materials

650% Higher Engagement For Posts That Include Images Than Text Alone (source: inc.com)

Try These Ideas To Add A Visual Element To Your Conference Content.

  • Call For Papers Announcement Banner
  • Research-Based Infographic
  • Promotional Images For Program Tracks
  • Behind The Scenes Planning Photos

Overcome 3 Content Marketing Roadblocks for Associations

A lot has been written about the benefits of content marketing for associations lately. But even if you understand how effective it is, that doesn’t mean you know how to launch a strategy. You might think you need a background in marketing or experience with online advertising before you begin. This isn’t the case. Content marketing doesn’t need to be difficult, especially for associations with existing content. There are, however, some preconceived roadblocks that prevent associations from getting started.

Here are three preconceived roadblocks that can prevent an association from starting an effective content marketing program.

Roadblock #1: Online marketing requires a lot of technical knowledge.

Reality: Online tools make it easier than ever to promote content online

Using the web to market your association can be overwhelming if you’ve never done it before. In practice, though, content marketing can start simply. If you know how to use social media tools like Facebook and LinkedIn, then you already know how to use some of the most powerful tools for promoting your content. If these were the only two tools you used to promote your materials, you’d still be able to reach a large percentage of your audience.

When you are ready to expand beyond your existing social media sites, there are free tools to help you. Content Management Systems like WordPress make it almost as easy to publish a blog post as it is to write a Word doc. Other tools are available to help you manage multiple social media accounts. And there are dozens of options for creating eye-catching images to give your online presence a professional look.

Roadblock #2: It’s complicated to put content on the web

Reality: Using a single site to store your content makes hosting materials easy

Technology has helped here, too. Just like it’s easier than ever to create blog posts and graphics, there are new options that de-mystify hosting content. New tools exist that make it possible to create an online library without having to customize your existing website. A “digital content library” is built specifically for PDFs, PowerPoint presentations and images. It also includes simple options for sharing materials on social media and allows your content to appear in search results.

Creating a single location for all your materials also reduces the complexities of managing content online. A single content library prevents you from having to post materials to each individual social media site, for example. This makes it is easier to keep track of your materials and saves time.

Another benefit of using a single content library is that when a visitor comes to look at one piece of content, they can quickly find related material, as well. A digital content library helps to show off the full value of the content you provide.

Roadblock #3: Creating new content requires time and topic-specific knowledge

Reality: Re-using existing content reduces the amount of work needed to create marketing materials

The best part of using content to market your association is that you can use the materials that you already have.

Most associations generate a ton of useful content that is often only used once. Content marketing gives that material a second life. When you use existing content for marketing, you don’t have to create material on a topic that you may not be an expert in. Instead, you create a short post on a blog or even a social media site that provides a link to that content. Your post allows visitors to find and read the existing content.

When it comes to creating content, associations are king.

Your association generates content that members of your industry are looking for. Your content marketing efforts help them find it. Luckily the tools exist to make these efforts easy and effective. Even if you don’t have a background in marketing, using your existing content can be a time-efficient way of promoting your association.

What roadblocks keep you from starting a content marketing strategy? Do you have any other tips for getting started that you can share with those in the association world? Let us know in the comments!

How Associations Can Successfully Institute Content Marketing

Two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to present to the Wisconsin Society of Association Executives about Content Marketing for Associations. It was a topic that I had constantly had conversations with association executives about over the past few years, so I thought I’d put together a presentation explaining the ins and outs of not only content marketing itself, but how associations and nonprofits can successfully institute a content marketing strategy of their own. The presentation was very well received, to my delight, so I wanted to share the main points with as many others as I could.

Here are the main points I covered:

  • What is content marketing?
  • Defining GREAT content
  • Creating effective content strategies
  • Member-generated content
  • Search engine optimization 101
  • Measuring ROI

What is content marketing

Joe Pulzzi, Founder of the Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing as “the marketing and business practice for creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience—with the objective of driving profitable customer action.” The main part to focus on in that definition is “creating and distributing relevant and valuable content.” The entire point and basis of any content marketing plan for an association is to create unique content that educates and engages current or potential members. This goes hand-in-hand with why associations are created in the first place; for the sole purpose of educating industry and association members

Defining GREAT content

Creating content for the sole purpose of creating content is a self-fulfilling prophecy. You’ve heard the effects of a good content marketing for associations strategy that can make a positive impact your organization, so you just crank out a bunch of content just for the fun of it. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite work like that. You must be able to create great content to separate yourself from other associations in your industry. Here’s 5 things each piece of content should accomplish:

  1. It must be unique: You may have heard that content is king. Well, that’s simply not true. Unique content it king.
  2. Be timely: Is the topic you’re writing about timely? Does it relate to things happening right now or in-season? People want to know the here and now, not the there and then.
  3. Take a position, and back it up with facts: Don’t be afraid to take a stance on an issue within your industry. Maybe some controversial legislation just passed that will negatively affect your industry. Write a blog about how you think it will negatively impact your colleagues and industry as a whole, but make sure you back your stance up with facts and statistics. No one likes a “facebook expert.” You know, those people who have very strong opinions on things with little to no verifiable information to back it up.
  4. Provoke conversation: When you’re writing material, always remember to think to yourself, “Could I have a conversation about this at an association meeting?” It’s a great way to determine the “who cares” factor. Don’t waste your time developing material that no one cares about.
  5. Make people smile: Don’t be afraid to be light-hearted and make people smile. Show that your organization and it’s employees are people with a sense of humor. Showing your organization has a human side is a great way to keep people engaged.

Creating an Effective Content Marketing for Associations Strategy

Creating a strategy in order to make sure you create and distribute that content correctly is also extremely important. Without a good strategy, you’re simply writing random content with no plan. You must have a plan!

  1. Know your audience: As an association, this one is pretty easy. You already have a very clear and concise target market for your future members and your know the specifics of what they like to look at. This is a huge benefit to get started.
  2. Mission statement & goals: By knowing your organizational mission statement and goals, you can coincide your content creation and dispersal along with it. Use percentages to give yourself an idea of what kind of content you should be creating for what channel. For example, if you’re looking to build brand awareness as an annual goal, a great way to do that is by creating visual content such as videos or infographics for social media. Weigh the amount of content like this you’ll create by how important brand awareness is to your organization to meet your annual goals.
  3. Stay up-to-date: Use the tools that are out there to stay up-to-date on the latest things going on in your industry. Google Alerts is a great way to have the latest information and media on a certain topic sent directly to your inbox each day. Use that information for topic ideas, or to simply share what’s going on in the industry.
  4. Create an editorial calendar: One of the best things that we’ve personally done at Omnipress is to create an editorial calendar. Each month we meet to discuss the next two months of content and plan what we’ll be writing, where we’ll be distributing it and how else we can leverage our content. It helps everyone stay on task and not fall behind. When I come in each morning, all I have to do is look and see if I’m responsible for writing or posting anything that day. I then complete that task and I’m on to other essential duties for the day. It’s a great way to stick to your content marketing plan.
  5. Track your work: I’m a firm believer that you might as well not create any kind of content unless you have a reliable way to track it. Track things like when you post, how you post and the success of the post to paint a clear picture for yourself (and your boss) of what’s working and what’s not. This will help when you’re planning future content and need to decide what to spend your precious time on.

Member-generated content

One of the other great things about using content marketing for associations is the fact that you’re able to have contact with a lot of great minds in your industry. The tough part is getting those minds to contribute to your organization in the form of content. Members respect other members so it’s incredibly important to enable them to share their experiences and their expertise. You can do so by offering incentives like committee titles, a little PR, or even a shiny new title to show off on their resume or LinkedIn profile. Enable your members to be part of what makes your association great.

Search engine 101

Search engine optimizationSearch engine optimization doesn’t have to be a big, bad, scary thing. It truly is something that everyone can do. Yes, there are very high-level things that you need a little HTML experience to conduct, but the basics are all things we can help with.

  1. Meta tags: Make sure all of your metadata is completed on all the pages of your site and blog. This means completing the title tags, description, and keywords within your content management system. There’s a lot of debate about whether or not these things have any bearing on search engine ranking anymore, but my motto has always been “it’s better to be safe than sorry.” This takes you very little time to complete each time you create new content, so why not take it to complete this task.
  2. Headline and body: The most important thing you can do with a headline or the body of the content is to write naturally. What I mean is to write like you would if you were speaking with someone in person. Don’t simply throw the keyword you’re trying to rank for in your content 100 times and think it will help you rank better. As a matter of fact, if it’s used too many times, and not in a natural, conversational tone, the search engines will actually penalize you. Use your keywords naturally!
  3. User-friendly URLs: This is a little bit more advanced, but something we can still all impact. Instead of keeping your URLs filled with random numbers and letters like this: www.omnipress.com/123/asfdqwertasvd, reformat your URLs to easy-to-read keywords like: www.omnipress.com/associations

*These are obviously three, high-level SEO tips. There are MANY other factors that go into search engine rankings, but these will help get you started with content marketing for associations.

Measuring Return-on-Investment

As an business, everything you do must be able to be tied back to some sort of ROI. Since your resources are even more limited in an association, you must really make sure your getting revenue back from your content marketing for associations efforts. Here’s a few things to keep in mind to do just that:

  1. Clearly define your objectives and goals (short and long-term): In order to measure success, you must be able to have a baseline of what success means to your organization. Using the SMART practice, you can come up with effective measurements to determine success. SMART – Specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely.
  2. Key performance indicators: There are typically some KPIs that your organization can pay attention to on your website and blog to measure content effectiveness. Here’s a short list
    1. Unique visits: A unique visit is the amount of individual visits you have to certain pages. For example, if you have 10 people come to your site, that’s 10 unique visits. If those same 10 people visit your page 100 times, that’s 100 visits. See the difference?
    2. Geography: This is a great indicator, especially for state or regional associations to determine if their content is reaching the right geographic area.
    3. Bounce rate: A bounce is when someone goes to a certain piece of content (page, post, etc.) and leaves without looking at any other piece of content. You want your content to encourage people to stay on your site, so the more pages they visit the better. The lower your bounce rate, the better.
    4. Session Duration: How long are people spending on your site, and the content on it? This is a great indicator of the quality of your content.
    5. Shares, likes, comments
    6. Downloads
    7. Followers and Subscribers